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Harty: Hawkeyes need key coaches recruiting

[ 8 ] November 22, 2011 |

Kirk Ferentz has been pounding the recruiting pavement for nearly a quarter century, first as an Iowa assistant coach from 1981-89 and now as the Iowa coach since 1999.

Ferentz is used to having to overcome the built-in disadvantages that exist at Iowa, not the least of which is the state’s low population.

Iowa is a good program, but not one that can sell itself to recruits like Ohio State and Michigan do.

Ferentz needs the right people doing that for the program because personal relationships are what attract recruits to Iowa more than anything else.

That’s why I’ve always felt that Iowa, which plays Friday at Nebraska in the regular-season finale, has suffered by not having veteran defensive coordinator Norm Parker on the road recruiting.

Not only is Parker one of the biggest faces of the program outside of Ferentz, he’s a funny man with a wealth of knowledge and nearly a half century of coaching stories to tell. If anybody on the Iowa staff could entice a recruit to visit the UI campus and then leave home to play football at Iowa, it’s Parker.

He’s 70-years-old and he suffers from advanced stages of diabetes, but Parker’s ability to relate to kids hasn’t suffered according to his boss.

“That’s one of his unique and rare abilities,” Ferentz at his news conference Tuesday. “I’ve been around coaches that as they get older they have a hard time communicating. I’ve never thought it was age-related. It’s people-related.

“And that’s always been one of his strengths. And that’s one of the things he does as the defensive coordinator or just talking to people. He has a way of, and usually in a very concise way of, just kind of getting to what’s important and saying it in usually a way that can be entertaining. But there is usually a pretty good message.”

Ferentz basically meant that Parker has a gift for gab and that Parker knows how to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds. So wouldn’t it make more sense to share those gifts on the recruiting trail?

Parker’s medical issues, which include having a foot amputated, would’ve have made it virtually impossible for him to recruit on the road the last two or three seasons.

But now he’s on the upswing according to Ferentz.

“I can just tell you he’s doing so much better than last year,” Ferentz said. “Last year was like the year from hell for him.”

Recruiting on the road can be a grind, even for somebody younger and in better health than Parker. Steps would have to be taken in order to make traveling more convenient for him.

That hardly seems like a burden, though, for a program with Iowa’s resources.

I’m not suggesting that Parker should hit the recruiting trail on a full-time basis, just enough to make an impact.

Ferentz not only dismissed that notion, Ferentz also would prefer that Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe stayed home, too.

Hearing Ferentz say that raised a few eyebrows.

“If Ken was willing, I’d have him off the road, too, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think there is a need to have all nine (assistant coaches) on the road. That’s just me personally. It’s kind of an inefficient use of time.

“I’ve made it available to Ken. But he likes to go out a little bit. And that’s fine, too.”

The rules allow for all nine of the Iowa assistant coaches to be on the road recruiting, but only seven can be on the road at the same time.

And maybe there isn’t a need to have all nine assistant coaches on the road recruiting, but there is a need, especially at Iowa, to have the two coordinators on the road, at least part of the time.

Recruits don’t choose to be a Hawkeye because of the weather or because of the location of the campus or because Iowa is an elite program.

They choose Iowa mostly because of the people in the program.

There is a belief that Iowa stands a good chance of landing a recruit if the coaches can get the recruit on campus.

However, that process starts on the road with the assistant coaches laying the groundwork.

Parker meets with all the recruits once they arrive on campus for an official visit. But imagine how influential he could be while sitting in a recruit’s living room telling funny stories and charming the parents.

Unfortunately, all we can do is imagine it.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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